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Peter Grueterich pon dered a single ques tion after he read in the newspaper last year that Bruno Magli shoes would be a key factor in the O.J. Simpson civil trial: "Is this good or bad for business?"
Grueterich, president of Bruno Magli America, soon had an answer. This year sales have increased by 50 per cent.
"There's no question that the trial contributed to the lump in sales," he said. "It's played a major role in increasing consumer awareness."
Bruno Magli is just one of a number of companies that were caught in the maelstrom of the Simpson case. And while not every company's sales figures have risen as much as Bruno Magli's, many have benefited from their brush with the intoxing melange of celebrity and infamy. These companies include, Aris Isotoner gloves - a bloody Aris glove was found outside Simpon's house, Ford Bronco - Simpson drove a white one during his infamous slow speed chase; Sony electronics - Judge Lance Ito had a Sony monitor prominently displayed on his desk during the trial.
The fact that a number of businesses attribute increased sales to the Simpson case represents a significant departure from past highly publicised tragedies or disasters, crisis management consultants say. In the past, this was a company's worst nightmare, and the only questions were how long the bad news would last and how long it would depress sales.
'What's different about the O.J. case are the celebrity element and the unprecedented news coverage - those are the X factors," said Ian Mitroff, co-author of The Essential Guide to Manufacturing Corporate Crisis. "Obviously, when Exxon has an oil spill or Tylenol has to deal with tampering, it's not going to do much for business. But the O.J. case was very unusual in that the negatives of the murder trial didn't seem to taint the products associated with the case. That's because of the celebrity, and because the news coverage was so extensive and so prolonged, it seemed to desensitise many people to the actual murders.''
The news coverage created tremendous "product awareness," he said. The point of advertising is constant exposure, he said, and many companies received exposure "that was phenomenal... you couldn't even buy it if you wanted to... but the scope of this went beyond just product awareness."
Another anomalous aspect to the Simpson case - partly because the victims were slain in Tony Brentwood on Los Angeles' west side - was the pervasive brand name-dropping that permeated the trial.
Simpson wore a Rolex watch the night of the murders. He drove his Bentley to a fast food restaurant. He wore $185 Bruno Magli shoes.
He had his Callaway golf clubs with him.
"A lot of products, like the shoes and the gloves and the Bronco, are the kind of products within the reach of a wider class of people," Mitroff said. "It's easier to be associated with celebrity with these kinds of things than having to buy the same $80,000 Mercedes as some celebrity in the news. And even though OJ was an accused murderer, he was still a celebrity. Some women marry guys on Death Row. The aura of celebrity makes some people respond in strange ways."
When Simpson took the stand in the civil trial, Bruno Magli gained national recognition. Simpson denied wearing a pair of the shoes but then was confronted with dozens of pictures that seemingly contradicted his testimony. The company is now so inextricably connected to the Simpson case that last month, at an international fashion convention in Las Vegas, many who passed the Bruno Magli display referred to its footwear as "OJ shoes".
"What all this publicity did was pique the curiosity of the consumer," Grueterich said. "Maybe before, people wouldn't have had any interest in Bruno Magli because they'd never heard of us.
"But after the trial, people had much greater awareness, which has translated into sales increases." Sales have risen sharply since the first Simpson trial. In 1996 sales were up 35 per cent, and during the first few months of 1997, sales were up 50 per cent, Grueterich said.
After first-degree murder charges were filed against Simpson in June l994, he and his friend Al Cowlings climbed into a white Ford Bronco and led police on the infamous low-speed chase that was carried on all the major network stations.
A year later, Advertising Age magazine reported: 'The publicity results in a spurt in Bronco sales: For the first five months of 1994, sales totalled 13,150, up 12.4 per cent from a year earlier; for the last seven months, a 34.3 per cent uptick is recorded, to 24,217."
While the extensive publicity was a boost, a rebate program and other promotional activities also helped sales, said James Bright, a Ford spokesman. During the criminal trial, television viewers could not miss the word Sony in large black letters on the back of the computer monitor on Ito's desk. A Sony employee had given the monitor a custom paint job to highlight the company's name. After about a week, however, company executives decided the custom paint job was going a bit too far and replaced the monitor. The logo was still visible, but in a less obtrusive beige.
Quite a number of judges saw the monitor and expressed an interest in having a similar hightech installation in their courtrooms," said Rick Clancy, a Sony spokesman. "During the past few years there's been an increasing demand for our colour computer monitors in the courtroom. I can't quantify it, but our overall computer product business has been growing at a double digit clip every year. The trial publicity certainly could have contributed to our sales increase."
Aris Isotoner gloves became the focus of intense publicity during the criminal trial, culminating in lead Simpson attorney Johnnie L. Cochran's line during closing arguments: "If it does not fit, you must acquit."
When the trial began, Aris was in the process of sampling focus groups to determine the name recognition of the company, said Nancy Young, an Aris spokeswoman.
"We discovered that, as a result of the trial, the name recognition for Aris was much stronger," she said. "All of a sudden Aris got extensive attention as a grove manufacturer, even though we manufacture a number of other products. It certainly got our name out there. I imagine there's been some increase in sales, though exactly how much of this is attributed to the case, I can't tell you."
We all tell 200 lies every day, new research has shown - and life would be a nightmare if we didn't. These range from small untruths or white lies to deliberate deceptions and the occasional "whopper", according to American psychologist Gerald Jellison.
"Dr Jellison, Professor of psychology, discovered that lies were being told on such a grand scale after putting microphones on a study group of 20 people as they went about their day-to-day tasks.
Analysis of the tapes revealed that an average of one lie was told every eight minutes.
Worst offenders were those who had the most social contact and were forced to make demands on people.
Shop assistants, doctors' receptionists, politicians, journalists, solicitors, salesmen and psychologists all fall into this category. "Often what we are talking about are very small lies, but they are lies none the less," said Dr Jellison, who believes Iying is crucial to the normal functioning of society.
We find people are almost constantly giving excuses for their failure in behaviour that might be seen by others as inappropriate.
"People whose jobs involve getting information will try to justify demands that might otherwise sound unreasonable or give offence. A typical comment would be: 'l hate to bother you', when really they don't give a damn.
"They might blame traffic for being late when they didn't make the effort to be on time," Dr Jellison said.
Lies were even told by people who were stuck at home all day, he added. "They will tell lies to relatives or friends on the telephone, perhaps to get out of a dinner.
"Society would be terrible if people started telling the truth. Anyone who did would be a subversive."
Dr Jellison said the problems of being completely honest were illustrated in the film Liar Liar.
The film features Jim Carrey as a lawyer, a compulsive liar, who reforms and can't stop himself from telling the truth with alarming results.
Other psychologists agree that dishonesty is a fundamental part of life - despite modern-day thinking in favour of openness.
Richard Wiseman, a British psychologist, said this was highlighted in a recent survey, in which a cheque for £12 was "mistakenly" sent to 25 priests and 25 car salesmen. Equal numbers of priests and salesmen (60 per cent) cashed the money.
"Society would fall apart if we were honest all the time. No one would get a job if they were completely honest on their CV. But there is a difference between giving something topspin and telling lies," Dr Wiseman said.
He revealed that a growing number of companies, worried about deceptive employees, were now screening job applicants, based on research carried out by psychologists.
By analysing speech patterns, researchers had been able to identify people who lied about their experience or qualifications. This was more reliable than examining a person's body language.
"Interviewees who lie hesitate and give much shorter answers. They won't go into detail or admit to not remembering something. Often they will try to shift the ground on to other issues," Dr Wiseman said.
Personnel officers faced with such a situation should investigate further.
This might mean questioning workmates or asking for documentary evidence to support applicants' claims.
Contrary to Mr Wiseman's claims that language is more important than body signs, Thomson says eye movements can be very revealing, in showing what a person is thinking.
These movements apply to right-handed people and would be reversed for those who were left-handed. Anyone who narrows their eyes is very concerned about what the other person is saying.
Thomson said: "If a politician is asked, 'Did you discuss this at a Cabinet meeting?', and, before replying their eyes look towards their right ear, then they are probably Iying - they are having to 'make up' the sound in their minds.
"If they are telling the truth, they will look towards their left ear, to recall the sound of the discussion at the meeting.
"And if two members of the same party are present, and one is narrowing their eyes as the other speaks, there may be internal party conflict."
Watching politicians being interviewed on television provides an ideal opportunity for spotting whether someone is Iying, according to a leading lecturer in personal development Peter Thomson, who gives seminars to businesses on lie detection skills has drawn up a guide of give-away signs that politicians are not telling the truth. He recommends that people should look out for:
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